by Mariam Elassal and Analicia Cass/Staff Writers
Photo: Photo is from Greenfield Central High school’s Instagram account. This picture was the State Board of Education meeting regarding the Graduation Pathway changes.
With recent alterations to graduation requirements by the Indiana State Board of Education (ISBOE), the Class of 2023 will be facing a new set of regulations in order to earn their high school diploma. The State Board’s motivation for approving this modification is to create a system that would ensure students are prepared for life after high school. The board’s decision to vote on the proposal in December surprised many people.
These new regulations will change graduation requirements significantly. Instead of the regular Core 40 plan, in which students complete their core classes and a few fine arts classes, with the option of continuing onto getting their academic or technical honors, this new plan greatly expands the process of graduating. In addition to the expectation of achieving Core 40, the students are expected to do one of the following: 1) achieve an honors diploma of choice: technical OR academic, 2) take the SAT or ACT or ASVAB, a military qualification test, 3) complete a state-, industry-, or federally- recognized apprenticeship, and the list goes on to a few more choices that are more difficult. This is what the BOE is calling the “Post-secondary Ready Competencies.”
The ISBOE wants students to be able to acknowledge and demonstrate independence and employability skills. To do so, there are three main choices that are broken down into more choices for students to choose from. These choices include project-based, service-based, and work-based. Within the project-based choices, students have to pick either the completion of a course capstone, completion of research project, completion of AP capstone assessment, or the completion of Cambridge International Global Perspective and Research. For the service-based option, students must choose one of the following: participate in meaningful volunteer experience, engage in school based activity: extracurricular or sport for one academic year, or other options approved by the ISBOE. For the work-based option, the available options to choose from are to complete course capstone, complete an internship, obtain a job outside of the school day or other options approved by the State Board.
GC administrators and staff have been paying very close attention to the new requirements proposed for Graduation Pathways. “My initial thought was ‘concern,’ ” said Dr. Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools. “I am trying to understand the urgency for the quick changes to the graduation process that are being recommended by the state board of education. That being said, I am going to quickly change to a problem-solving mentality and create the setting for G-C students to succeed in the new environment.”
Teachers and school administrators are also concerned about the learning and demonstrating employability skills portion of the regulations. “(The ISBOE) talks about having different work experience or service experience. Those are difficult for me to understand. How do you track that? If we have a student that can’t do that after school, they are expected to do it during school. We have kids that have special circumstances. What does it look like for those kids?” Mr. Jason Cary, GCHS principal asked.
In the 2015-16 school year, Indiana schools prepared to give a different standardized test than the ECA, which had previously been given. Sophomores in that academic year were given the ISTEP along with the ECA in a multitude of assessments. Ethan Kile, 12, said, “We were the guinea pigs and were bombarded with standardized tests. In middle school, we were told all we need to graduate was ECA. I thought all I had left was the SAT and when I came in freshman year, I heard about all these new tests.” From the 2017 ISTEP scores at GC, only 34.6 percent of students passed both math and reading. Mount Vernon’s passing rate was only slightly higher at 38%, and New Pal sophomores passed both reading and math at a rate of 43.5 %. In contrast, Warren Central’s passing rate was 20.4% and Lawrence Township’s scores were 25.9%. Overall, scores of this new ISTEP test were low.
As we look to the new stipulations for graduation coming up, Dr. Olin also stated that he estimates that about 70-75% of students will not have trouble completing these new requirements, meaning that 25-30% of high school will struggle to achieve a diploma. According to an article indystar.com wrote in 2015, 5-10% of high schoolers in Indiana did not graduate. This new pathway would potentially jeopardize the diplomas of triple that number of students.
Cary also discussed the challenges for some graduates. “Our top 50% of kids are going to be fine but for the kids that study already and have obstacles, it’s going to be a lot for some of those kids. In theory it was a good idea but one of our biggest complaints was that the board did not have a single counselor on their team,” said Cary. Additionally, several members of the ISBOE do not have experience in the classroom, and they are generally the members who voted for the the new pathway program.
Indiana educators and administrators will have to wait to see how the new regulations will affect their students.
Picture: Picture is from Greenfield Central High school’s Instagram account. This picture was the State Board of Education meeting regarding the Graduation pathway changes.